10 years ago, an apology video took the world by storm. Minegishi Minami, at the time a 21 year old member of AKB48, was caught sleeping over at a member of Generations from EXILE Tribe‘s apartment. While dating scandals were nothing new to fans, the public and idols alike, what was new was the way in which Miichan, as she is called, went about apologizing for the scandal.
On the variety show Shikujiri Sensei ~Ore Mitaini Naru na!!~, Minegishi finally spoke about how she felt the series of events and scandal that unfolded went.
While this is the first time Minegishi has appeared on this program, this was actually not their first invitation. She mentioned having received a number of proposals from the variety show to come speak, but put off speaking about the incident until she had graduated from the group and felt ready to talk about it. In fact when she told her husband, Oyaizu Tetsuya, member of Toukai On Air, that she would be appearing on the show, his only reaction was to say “oh finally?”.
Talking about the events that led up to that infamous scandal, Minegishi talked frankly about being a less-popular member of AKB48. Starting from the age of 10 she had tried her hand at various auditions, failing for 3 years (including an attempt at Hello! Project Kids) until she passed at the age of 13 for AKB48‘s first generation. Even after she passed it was not smooth sailing, and for several years she struggled to make a name for herself as a backup dancer for many of AKB48‘s more popular members. Surrounded by girls who in her words “were talented and could make it”, her first real break came as a member of No Sleeves, a sub-unit formed by her, Takahashi Minami and Kojima Haruna.
What Minegishi mentions as striking her the hardest was that even when she was in the limelight, she would often be made fun of for being ugly. Frequently when she was cast with other members the MCs would frequently compare Minegishi with other idols – AKB48 or otherwise – to contrast how “ugly” she looked as compared to the others. While at the time she brushed it off, these comments hurt her deeply and over time she started to wonder if she wasn’t suited to be an idol at all or if she was in fact quite bad looking. In a rare back and forth, she actually calls out two fellow talents – Wakabayashi Masayasu and Sawabe Yuu, both of whom MC for idol shows – for using these sorts of jokes. In addition, she mentioned that despite being well known, she had relatively low popularity. This, in addition to the various other things she talks about on the show, resulted in Minegishi turning to ways to try to break out of a vicious negative loop that often resulted in her having lower and lower self esteem.
But even those particular venues weren’t that great per her recollection. Not only was she often invited to be the mood maker for the crowd when she would go out drinking with friends, but the ugly jokes would come back to haunt her as there were “plenty of cute girls” that would frequently come to parties, some of whom weren’t even celebrities. In fact, these girls often brought with them unintended benefits (like not ending up on the front page of another weekly magazine) that idols like Minegishi could not provide, further making it difficult for her to find a place where she could be herself. But despite this she kept on going out to clubs.
When she finally ended up getting caught by a weekly publication, Minegishi‘s first thought was that she absolutely did not want to quit AKB48. This was despite the fact that during this time, many of the girls who were caught in scandals often left, and that she thought she had no worth outside of being an AKB48 member.
This was the mindset that led to the creation of the now infamous video, which while she created completely in isolation, was uploaded to the official AKB48 YouTube channel. Because only her parents were told that she would be taking such drastic action beforehand, many of the people (including staff, other members and friends) would only learn of the hair shaving when they either saw the video or saw her in person. A moment that left quite a mark on her was meeting fellow No Sleeves members Takamina and Kojiharu in person for the first time after the scandal, and realizing that she had quite misread the situation when seeing their shocked and crying faces. Looking back on it now, she thinks she completely misread the situation, as the reactions of the people around her were not what she expected.
Calling it the beginning of the real hell, Minegishi Minami called the airing of her apology video in over 33 countries and people uploading the photo to various places around the world, and the return to work after the event quite difficult. Wakabayashi rightly points out that while she took all these actions on her own, the real issue lay in the fact that she was in an environment where she felt like such a drastic form of apology would be OK, which of course would be shocking to people outside of Japan (and maybe even within Japan as well).
For this week only, the entire episode is available on ABEMA for free, after which it will become a paid video on demand. Between the banter between Miichan and fellow idols Yabuki Nako and Yokoyama Yui to the various other talents that starred on the show, this is definitely an episode you do not want to miss!